I’m glad Frank Thomas said something in his own behalf promoting his Hall of Fame candidacy this weekend at the annual White Sox FanFest in Chicago. Up until now Thomas has been shy about tooting his own horn and has been as non-committal as a politician on a big issue even when chatted up in public by friendly fans.
After the recent results of this year’s Hall of Fame vote with no modern era players being voted into the Hall, I’m guessing Thomas realized the topic was so hot as he becomes eligible for the first time next vote that it is neither bragging, nor a mistake to address the matter, so he did.
Thomas told sports writers that yes he does believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame and that he is worthy of first-ballot induction next year along with other newcomers to the ballot, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, both of whom won more than 300 games. And he is right on all counts. They are all deserving. There has never been any doubt about any of them.
Nor has there ever been a doubt expressed about Thomas being the genuine article. There’s never been a hint of suspicion that he used performance-enhancing drugs. What he did during his 19-year career, most of it with the White Sox, was hit, hit for power, and play as one of the most dominant players in the game at the same time some other players who were using PEDs recorded better statistics.
So others who benefited achieved more than they might have if they had not used PEDS and that came at the expense of players who did not use them. Thomas hit 521 home runs, same as Ted Williams. He knocked in 1,704 runs and batted .301 lifetime. Thomas won an American League batting title and had a lifetime .419 on-base percentage because he walked very often. A five-time All-Star he scored more than 100 runs in a season nine times and he collected more than 100 RBIs in a season 11 times. Thomas won two Most Valuable Player awards and he finished a very close runner-up for a third. Jason Giambi, who did use PEDs, finished ahead of him that time. Three MVP’s vs. two MVPs–how much does than change Thomas’ legacy? It shouldn’t really given the big picture, but that doesn’t mean it won’t for some voters.
Hall voters should inspect Thomas’ actions during his playing days, too, when baseball finally got suspicious about the potential use of performance-enhancing drugs and began writing reports and holding hearings. Thomas was front and center, speaking out then, testifying when asked, and testifying when others refused, urging that drugs be wiped out of the sport.
At 6-foot-5 and 250 or so pounds, Thomas is a naturally big man. He played football in college at Auburn on the same team with Bo Jackson. Thomas had a tight end’s build. He was gifted and strong enough to hit those homers without drug use.
I have spent time around Frank Thomas. I spoke to him in the White Sox locker room. We worked on a writing project together. Before this year’s Hall vote he was very reluctant to talk about his own chances to be elected into the Hall of Fame even as people walked up to him and told him he was a shoo-in. He was already superstitious about the whole subject. He didn’t want to talk about his chances or likelihood of being chosen until it was a done deal.
This time Thomas was in a public forum, surrounded by sports writers, and he said his piece about the Hall of Fame, PED users, and players who tainted their own legacy.
Frank Thomas was a great player. He is a proud man and he is proud of what he accomplished (and also a nice guy). The Hall of Fame vote is not for many months, but come next December it should be Thomas’ (as well as Maddux’s and Glavine’s) turn for selection. After a few years of virtual silence on the topic, keeping a low profile, Thomas is out of the shadows.
I’m not suggesting Thomas go barnstorming around the country campaigning for Hall election on a whistle-stop train. But I think any time he ventures into a baseball forum and he is asked about the Hall he shouldn’t duck it. He has every right to make sure people are familiar with his credentials and to distance himself from those players who either admitted to using or got caught taking PEDs.
In an ongoing heated debate Thomas has the heft, the record, and the case to stand out from the babble to be viewed as a reasonable man making a rational argument. It doesn’t hurt any that he is on the side of right and has the numbers supporting him to make a winning argument.